• Opinion
  • August 28, 2019
  • 8 minutes
  • 0

It’s time for a price on carbon across nations

Opinion: It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and save the planet

This opinion article was written by Katharina Schulze, German politician, co-leader of the Bavarian Green Party and one of Apolitical’s 100 most influential people in climate policy.


Nearly ten years ago, the UN Climate Change Conference took place in Copenhagen. I still have very clear memories of how I travelled to the conference as a member of the Young Greens.

How overwhelmed and full of hope I felt that one of the biggest meetings in the history of diplomacy was going to address climate change on an international scale. This would surely transform climate policy in fundamental ways, I thought. It turned out that this was an illusion – neither a legally binding minimum consensus nor concrete targets were brought forth.

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This devastating experience reinforced my passion to engage in green politics, because it reaffirmed my conviction: You can’t make the world any better by just complaining, you have to take action!

And time is running out. If we don’t start to take climate change and the threat of a climate collapse seriously, the consequences of global warming will become uncontrollable.

Years after the failed summit in Copenhagen, world leaders agreed to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and a diplomatic consensus on how to fight climate change was finally established. But European countries now need to set an example and take concrete actions that put into practice these ambitions climate protection goals.

Fixing the system

Sadly, EU climate change policy, including the Emissions Trading System, which sets caps on how much industry can emit before having to pay up, has not been effective enough so far as required by science.

There is no doubt: our current mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is in urgent need of reform. One effective solution would be to introduce a price on CO2. I am very pleased that, due to the persistence of the Greens, Germany’s leading environmental party, concrete discussions over carbon pricing are finally taking off among politicians in Germany, after this debate was avoided for a long time.

A global carbon price would be the best solution, and we welcome all initiatives that aim to achieve this

Carbon pricing is a simple, market-based instrument that rewards climate-friendly behaviour and increases the cost of climate-damaging behavior. Fossil fuels are subject to a price charge, which increases over time. This surcharge is intended to reflect the costs of climate damage. This kind of pricing already exists in over 70 countries whilst Germany has no CO2 price and is lagging behind: Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden have long been ahead of Germany.

My party demands an effective and socially fair CO2 price. Accordingly, we need a minimum price within the Emissions Trading System, so that emissions are treated fairly under both the carbon pricing and the Emissions Trading System.

Green, effective and socially fair

We as the Green Party in Germany want to introduce an effective carbon price per ton of CO2 which would significantly strengthen the push towards climate-responsible technologies and investments.

According to our model, the carbon price should have a starting price of €40 ($44.3) per ton of CO2 and should then adapt to the real costs of CO2 emissions from the energy source. This way, climate-friendly behavior is rewarded.

Social fairness is at the core of our Green policy. Instead of passing the cost of carbon onto individual consumers, we promote systemic change.

An effective carbon pricing system benefits society as a whole by promoting investment and driving innovation towards low-carbon, eco-friendly technologies. As the goal is not to generate additional revenue for the state, other energy-related costs could be adapted accordingly.

For instance, the electricity tax could be reduced in other to maintain or even optimize energy price competitiveness in all sectors. In addition to scaling down electricity tax, private households will receive a financial compensation, a so-called “energy money” of €100 ($110.80) per capita and per year.

National, European, global

Looking beyond Germany, a global carbon price would be the best solution, and we welcome all initiatives that aim to achieve this.

However, in light of the reinvigorated isolationism of a considerable number of countries, including the USA and China, it is unclear whether an agreement on a global carbon price will ever be reached. Saving our climate cannot wait that long.

As long as there is no pan-European solution, we suggest Germany should follow the example of other European countries. The goal should be a joint carbon pricing system with other European countries, led by the European Union. There are offers from France and the Netherlands, for example, which Germany should definitely accept.

Such solutions must be designed so they incentivise other countries to join later on. For the implementation, we need independent and strong institutions as climate protection is a long-term process.

In September, ten years after Copenhagen, the UN Climate Action Summit takes place in New York and I am convinced that we can still push climate protection and thus avert the worst, if we act now. At the moment we experience incredible public support for climate action and the climate movement in Germany and my home state Bavaria. I will continue to fight passionately, confidently and with courage for our planet. And I hope many join in. The time is now. — Katharina Schulze:

At the age of 34, Katharina Schulze is among the youngest parliamentarians in Germany and the prominent whip of the Bavarian Greens, which received a record 17,5% of the votes in the 2018 Bavarian parliamentary elections.Her main goals are transforming Bavaria towards more ecological sustainability, digital opportunities, equal rights for women and cosmopolitanism. She now is the leader of the opposition in the Bavarian Parliament.

(Picture credit: Unsplash) 

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